Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Anarchy and Witchcraft

I tend to think that radicalism and witchcraft are a match made in heaven. Take, for instance, the structure of the coven. A closely bonded group of traditionally 13, surrounded by a less closely bonded grove. This structure mirrors that of the affinity group, the basic unit of most revolutionary movements. And this is a logical parallel, since Aradia seems to hint that the Craft was originally a technology intended to help the oppressed withstand their oppressors. More importantly, in this age where the dominant culture destroys the Earth, a being we literally believe to be our divine Mother, witches everywhere ought to be up in arms preventing that murder. Sadly, I don't see that going on in our community. One reason might be an unhealthy amount of horizontal conflict, as we split hairs on community labeling instead of organizing to transform our culture for the better. Sometimes transformation looks an awful lot like dismantling. We as magic workers has enormously valuable spiritual contributions to offer to the movement against industrialization, misogyny, and fear-mongering that is civilization. In fact, I view the Pagan community as a vital puzzle piece in this resistance movement as a source of spiritual nourishment much needed by the activist/anarchist community. My gods certainly exhort me to resist and prevent the further rape of our planet, and I presume most others would do the same. So...perhaps the time has come for us to cease our weekend witchcraft and start being contributing members of the anti-civ movement. It may be controversial, but I don't think you can endorse industrial civilization and simultaneously have values consistent with a Pagan religion. Chew on that for a bit.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Building my Own World

I have the job of my dreams. I essentially have creative control of a local, organic and sustainable urban farm while working under a great boss and being supplied with practically limitless amounts of delicious food and great company. I wish more people could say the same. I wish we lived in a culture that didn't require most of us to work demeaning, demanding jobs while degrading that very same fact. But in some way, I'm doing what I can to change that...slowly. You see, at my job, we strive wherever possible to create authentic community. That means my boss respects my gender expression choices and my spirituality. How many other gay Pagans get the privilege of saying that? I'm not trying just to brag here (though maybe that's part of it), I'm trying to remind everybody out there that you don't have to stick to what our culture has told you is possible as a career! There are places out there that will affirm your love of the Earth as a goddess and as our partner in living. There are jobs that will recognize your sexuality and gender expression is a beautiful part of the continuum of human experience. You might have to give up your fabulous apartment, or your feeling of financial security, or your meat-heavy diet, but in return, your life can become an incubator for self-actualization instead of a suppressor. And that's a great part of magick...as we transform ourselves, we can turn that energy outward and change the world. So if your job or your career insults your magickal soul, if it prevents your from creating a better world, or if it actively discourages you from being yourself...perhaps it's time to rethink where things are headed.

Monday, October 10, 2011

I work on a farm you know...

I work on a farm, in case you weren't aware. If you've never worked on a farm, let me tell you, it is radically different from gardening. Even the most ambitious of gardeners won't have to contend with the madness of running a small organic farm in this day and age of industrialized crop subsidies. Most days it seems like a never stop working. I even dream about the vegetables, which can be a bit...unnerving. Every so often I sit back after a  week of harvesting as fast as my fingers will let me and wonder how it all gets done. But don't let me make you think that sustainable agriculture is ruining my life, in fact it's the opposite. However punishing it can be, it's infinitely more rewarding. As a Pagan, I am literally acting out the Great Rite on a daily basis as a fill the earth with seed. My hands, eyes and mind are constantly discovering new things about the body of the Goddess. I wish everyone could have the opportunities that I've had as a farmer to commune directly with Gaia. She has a way a taking over your life, bit by bit, until it's difficult to find where she ends and you begin. Isn't that the goal anyway?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Why do we blog?

Why do we blog? When I say we, I mean both we as Pagans and we as human beings. I've been doing some pathworking with my Ancestor's lately and some of the things they've told me have caused me to truly question the basic motivation to blog. A blog is, literally, a web-log. So, if we take the metaphor a bit farther, a blog is a narrative tapestry, an illustrated spider web meant to record our own personal histories. That sounds just lovely, but anyone worth their salt can tell you that we don't blog just for our own record-keeping. A few of us might say that our blogs are just places to have reflective time, but when it comes down to it, we all want other people to pay attention to them.

Do we blog in hope of acquiring fame? It's important to remember here that fame comes in many different varieties. Blogging offers our narcissistic sides a little paradise of self-absorption. However, when we follow this path, we find out that fame is not a reliable foundation for something that can be as demanding as a blog. We obviously don't blog to make money, though perhaps someday that might be a viable option.

The only way I can really start to answer this question is by telling you why, in my better hours, I write this blog: I blog because living as a Pagan in the Texas is a lonely, isolated lifestyle. I blog because I really want to talk to other Witches, Shamans, gardeners, Magicians and spiritual seekers. I've got a need to find out what we're all thinking, to try and work together on the things that puzzle all of us. I blog, because I want to communicate. So if you're out there, let's talk.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


I work with two notable trickster gods, Loki and Hermes. These two are a part of a pretty decent majority of my spiritual work, so it's important for me to talk about them here. Looking around at the seemingly chaotic events of your life and of the world at large, you might wonder why anyone would want to work with deities known specifically for their disorderly conduct. After all, one of the tools our Pagan spirituality gives us is a natural system for organizing and ordering our understanding of the world. But if you haven't dipped your toes into the water of trickster work, you're really missing out.

To me, these divinely “amoral” beings represent two very important and empowering concepts. First of all, their ethics are totally self-generated. Loki and Hermes both engage in acts of theft that almost none of the more traditional pantheonic gods would stoop to do and yet these very same non-traditional acts benefit their holy brothers and sisters in very real ways. Loki delivers Thor his hammer, Odin his arm-brace and his steed. Hermes seems to be forever stealing herds of cattle for his father, Zeus. The message here is: if it works, do it. Our ethics as witches and Pagans should come out of experimentation, keeping the principles which are useful, which help you and your community to move forward, and discarding those that are useless.

The second concept they can offer us is that of liminal existence. Frequently we describe ourselves as being “between the worlds”, a position that these deities occupy exclusively. Their myths allow us to see that by blurring lines of gender, sexuality and personality, we evolve as beings. By accepting that the boundary between yourself and whatever you consider to be “other” is truly arbitrary, you gain that much more self-understanding. So next time you take a shamanic journey or meditate, seek out a trickster, a thief or a fool. Let yourself be led down the rabbit hole for a while. I guarantee you'll discover something worthwhile in the process.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Reaching Out

I walked out into a stretch of woods near my house. The temperature was a balmy 104 degrees and while the rangy mesquite trees could survive in the drought, the groups of elm and fan ash were dying of in greater numbers every day. As I hiked in far enough to escape the sounds of cars nearby, I picked up some trash most likely left by neighborhood residents. In my bag was a yellow rose and an unshelled pecan, both sacred to the goddess Tejas, who I had come here to meet. Once I'd found a shady stump to sit on, I laid my meager offerings out and started to commune the the Burning Lady, Tejas, divine spirit of the land that sustains me.

We all very much need to develop a relationship with our local land gods and goddesses. When you and your community blaze both a magickal and mundane path into geographically based practice, you're working with a spirit ally whose incarnation you already live within. So, start doing some research. What herbs, flowers, trees and fungi are native to your area? What are their uses? When you learn these things not only are you opening your eyes to a vast wealth of resources which exist totally independent from factory culture, but you explore the personalities and values of your local goddesses and gods. Get outside, start to work with native plant spirits. I've found this method personally far more effective than any listing of traditional plant in a generalized book. Texans who might read this: please, let me know how you work with the spirit of our land!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Listen Up!

How do you communicate with a tree? How do you talk to a stone, or an herb, or a spirit, or, for that matter, another person? The art of listening seems to have been lost. If it isn't lost, at least significantly narrowed in definition. We equate it with hearing, with passively experiencing information. I've been noticing just how much more active engagement real listening requires. In fact, truly communicating with someone requires a great shift in viewpoint on our part.

To talk to a tree, you need to become like a tree. Stand (or sit) still, breathe deeply, sink your roots into the earth, feel your branches sway and dance. Think you don't have roots or branches? Try to move away from those strict dictates of ordinary consciousness. Once you get comfortable and in contact with the ground, given a little effort, you'll find you have all the parts of a tree. Perhaps you just haven't been paying attention to them recently. Hinduism teaches us that we are all microcosms of the universe. That tree you want to ask for a branch, that spirit you've been trying to channel: you've got all the essential gear already within your own being. Moving through day to day life without spiritual focus, we've trained ourselves to identify things based on their disparities, but that's only a small portion of the perspective we can acquire by analyzing their similarities. Start by trying to talk to the tree inside you, and you'll find your way to the tree in front of you.

It's usually convenient to imagine that we are all discrete entities, solitaries who interact with other solitary beings. This, however, is a singularly narrow-minded worldview. Think about your own body. Are you your skin? Though this is our largest organ and perhaps the most apparent, I think we would all agree it is not what makes us who we are. Contemplate the long process of cell death and regeneration that governs your skin. At what point does a skin cell cease to be part of you? The lines that divide and define us are much fuzzier than we think. This same blurring of boundaries extends throughout our world. Think about those wonderful vegetables you eat. Eventually, that carrot you're munching on ceases to be a carrot and becomes part of your body. Where is that place of transformation, of everyday alchemy? It's liberating to realize that we don't necessarily have to function as lone islands, but instead can thrive as richly diverse and powerful network: an archipelago.

How badly we need to embrace this process today. How would our political theater look differently if the people running the show tried to step into each others' shoes and the shoes of their constituency? Would we even have the vast, inefficient, top-heavy government that's in place now? I doubt it. Because in the past we've been all too willing to put on blinders and ignore our sense of connectedness, we've manifested an inherently divisive and unfair society. But that doesn't have to be the case. Let's go outside, talk to our tree and our neighbors. To do so, we're all going to have to grow a lot closer.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


  Well as I write this I'm in the midst of trip to Vermont. If you've never seen the forest land of the American Northeast, you owe it to yourself to do so. The landscape is radically different from the scorching summers I've gotten used to in Texas. Hemlocks, shag-bark Hickories and elegant birch trees coat the area like a fabric of green lace. Clear, cool brooks run through nearly every gulch and under every bridge.
  What has happened to our species, that we are callous enough to abuse such an enduring peace of natural beauty? I've often thought that the most important part of my Pagan practice is constantly increasing the scope of my awareness. Some days, that means trying to talk to rocks. Others, it means researching local ecological action groups. Most of the time it involves a practice of connecting to myself. Wherever I am, I stop what I'm thinking, take in a cleansing breath, and take a deep look at my surrounding. Just that simple ritual has transformed my experience of life. The change wasn't instant, it wasn't easy, but now I look back on how I used to approach life and feel such surprise that I had such staggering tunnel vision.
  Surely, this practice of breath won't solve all of our problems. Corporations still manipulate most of our food supply, pollute our environment and we are still occasionally their willing accomplices. But possibly, if we all made becoming aware of the all the life surrounding and supporting us, we could slow and reverse this onslaught of universal cruelty. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

When Books Aren't Enough

  What happens when books aren't enough? Don't get me wrong, I love books. I've had a frantic desire to read every printed word in sight since I can remember. But at some point on our various Pagan paths, we come to a point where reading just doesn't cut it anymore. When we read a book about prosperity magic, shamanic journeying, or community building, we're briefly entering the mind of the author and seeing things from their point of view. Depending on their level of experience and their skill at communicating through the written word, what we get out of their books might be similar or entirely different than what they themselves have actually felt and seen in reality.
  Because of this it is likely that one day you, like me, will walk into your local bookstore and squat down in the metaphysical section. You'll peruse the shelves, examining cover after cover, scanning bios and reading front flaps hoping for a summary that speaks to you. Usually, when I do this, I eventually find a book that calls out my name. You know that feeling. It's as clear as a bell, telling you to read it, to plumb the depths of the knowledge within. But someday, maybe someday soon, you'll look, and there won't be a book like that. You've filled up on written knowledge for now. And then what?
  Then it's time to walk outside. Do an hour of ecstatic dancing in the blazing sun, drum till you can trance journey across the cosmos, cast a circle every day, build your own community up! When books aren't enough, look up, and start doing, start experiencing what the books have been trying to teach you all along. The only way to move past 101 is experiential learning. Take risks, be daring, and make magic.

Friday, July 29, 2011


   As the New Apostolic Reformation angles to target each of the states individually in their spiritual campaign, it occurs to me that we can learn something important from them. Each of those states, after all, is a fairly distinct landmass, with individual topography, features and mythology. Which, to us as Pagans, should indicate it has its own spirit. Usually thinking of your home state in spiritual terms is avoided, because the concept of statehood ties in with the overculture so much, however, the necessaries for a build your own worship kit are right there in your state's individual nature.
  Conveniently, I live in a state with a long standing attitude of individuality and quasi-fanatic culture already. Texas, while possessing many distinct geographical regions, is a territory that could never be confused with any other. The land is harsh and unforgiving at times, but beautiful for that very reason.  What might the spiritual connection with Texas look like?
  Well, to start with, moving away from the modern pronunciation, we find Tejas, one of the area's original names. Tejas is an appellation that diverse group of indigenous peoples here, composed mostly of Caddo, used to refer to themselves, which became the Old Spanish name for the territory. Not so coincidentally, Tejas is the Sanskrit term for fire and brightness, the dominion of the Hindu god Agni. So we can see that a strong characteristic of the goddess Tejas would be fire, heat and fierceness.
  Anyone who has walked outside in a Texan August will tell you that this much is obvious. Strings of days in the triple digits are common, along with frequent drought. Most of the state turns a pale, golden brown as the vegetation dies off and the sun reigns supreme for a solid five months.
  What else could we find in our Texan culture to associate with Goddess worship? Most obviously, our flag features a great white five-pointed star, our state being known as "The Lone Star State". A Pentacle in disguise perhaps? It's interesting, as you look as these things, how clear it becomes that mysticism hasn't really left the culture at all, but is hiding in plain sight.  Another example is the sacred flower of Tejas, the yellow rose. This particular blossom is praised in an infamous song, "The Yellow Rose of Texas", and could very well be considered another name for the goddess of our particular plot of earth. So from those to pieces of folklore, we can extrapolate that Tejas would almost certainly be a solitary warrior goddess, while simultaneously being a patroness of beauty and potentially harmonizing with our Solar Plexus chakra, one of the most fiery charkras. You can see, she shares qualities from many different traditional goddesses, such as Venus, Diana and Brigid.
  Why is it important to connect with the deified spirit of the land you live on? Well, first and foremost, it makes deity far more accessible. While I dearly love the Greco-Roman pantheon, their qualities and correspondences are difficult to envision as I walk around the hill country of central Texas. Second, it allows you to take part in the creation of your own worship. Last but not least, in these times when we are all struggling so desperately for identity, it offers us a personalized approach to working with the Otherworld, and it creates a resilient solidarity between yourself and the persona of the place where you live. So go out, meditate, commune with your land and figure out how it wants to be respected. You'll both be glad you did.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Interfaith in the Wake of DC40

  How do we respond to such a flagrant act of religious aggression as the New Apostolic Reformation leader's DC40 campaign? The group targets all non-evangelical Christian faiths and specifically focuses on Pagans as the cause of this country's downhill slide. In fact, the entire operation is a grandiose act of hexing, which, although ironic, doesn't make it any less terrifying. Something as public as this cannot just be laughed off as right-wing extremism. After all, it is intimately connected with presidential hopeful Rick Perry's start-up campaign.
  Living in Texas, in Governor Goodhair's own city, I've watched this sort of abhorrent state-church power brokering occur time after time. Part of the reason that even more liberal areas of Texas are able to remain under  Republican control is a concentrated effort toward disenchanting potential Democratic voters and a persistent strategy of gerrymandering on an increasingly flagrant scale. What can we do?
  Interfaith work is a vital part of stopping the progression of exclusionary 3-faith America. When an Interfaith group forms, bonds are forged across the lines of theology and practice, creating an active network that can work toward a shared goal of pluralism. Challenge yourself to investigate what ideas you might have about the other faith communities in your city. After all, most public rituals here in Austin are held in dedicated Interfaith chapels at Christian churches.
  Another important quality of Interfaith work is that it widens your base of support. Most obviously, when you're working together, you all gain the power of numbers at the voting booth. Fragmented social justice and political campaigns can become paragons of solidarity within diversity. To unpack that some more, you also gain intellectual community. A broad spectrum of individuals from different walks of life tend to bring so many more ideas to light, so much more perspective and constructive, objective criticism.
  On an even more basic level, I suggest intrafaith work. Try to connect with other Pagan or Pagan-friendly groups in your area. They're out there and they probably have similar concerns. Regardless of differences in our practice, we owe it to each other to work toward a more pluralist nation.
  Something you and your local Interfaith organization can do is work toward creating a vibrant spiritual identity, both locally and statewide. A lot of wind could be taken out of DC40's sails by reversing their tactic. Let each state in turn celebrate it's cultural and religious multiplicity. As a Pagan, try working with the spirits of your land, your state or your neighborhood specifically. See what they have to say to you, get to know them. I'll bet they don't like this aggressive attempt at monoculture any more that you do.

  In the spirit of this, my next post will be about Tejas as a spirit and a form of the Goddess...it's gonna be fun!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Beyond the Seasons

  In the same vein as yesterdays post, I've been pondering the evolution of the Craft. When I first started to study modern witchcraft, an extremely heavy emphasis was placed on seasonal celebration. The purpose behind these solar and lunar holy days was to reconnect the practitioner with the cycles of the Earth. The need for such a reconnection becomes more and more obvious every day. However, I think to be a fulfilling spiritual path, Paganism needs more than ritual celebrations.
  To address the deeper hunger for meaning within this apparently chaotic universe, back-to-the-land era practices have to be expanded and deepened. The self-exploratory work that begins in meditation has to become something more. In honoring the cosmos outside of ourselves, we should be reminded to give equal honor to the limitless cosmos within our own consciousness.
  Believe me, I like the rites of Beltane just as much as the next witch. Becoming aware of the way Gaia changes throughout the Wheel of the Year has been instrumental to my building a stronger connection with her. But this can't be the only goal of our faith. Activism, self-actualization, and the realization of our own deity    are just as important.
  Those same cycles occur in each of us. After all, as above so below, as within so without. The next time you check the moon phase, or plan a ritual for Lugh, think about how those same changes manifest in your life. How does your body alter? Your emotions? How is the connection between yourself and the divine shifting? The Wheel of the Year mimics the revolutions of the Wheels of our Souls. Or perhaps it's the other way around. Who knows?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Nature: What is it?

What is nature? For most pagans, witches, druids etc... it seems to be a fairly subjective term. I haven't quite come across a definition that totally suits me. It comes distantly from the Latin nasci meaning "to be born." So does nature include everything that is, has been or will be born? Many would disagree. They contend that nature is a term applicable only to things not created by man, or altered by him, thus excluding cities, towns and the technologies in them.
What principle is it that distinguishes these thing supposedly birthed unnaturally from the things we hallow as natural? It's no idle question, since we are, after all, a nature religion. Are we as children of the God and Goddess to be considered co-creators of nature, or somehow an entirely separate entity?
It seems somewhat hypocritical to say that all things have a spirit and that we should respect other forms of consciousness, and then deny the idea of consciousness to the very things we as a species have made. Certainly this question hasn't been resolved to my own satisfaction and I believe a cross-sectarian dialogue needs to develop further on the subject. So that's my drop in the bucket, a snapshot of my personal confusion about what's holy and what's mundane.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Just Breathing

  Most of us, when muddling through our Wicca 101 phases, are constantly searching out spells. Now, I've been as guilty of this as anyone, but unless you're already an accomplished ceremonial magician, complex ritual spells are most likely going to fall flat for you. So, what magical working can we begin with? Grounding and breath.
  These two practices are the foundation to any magic, no matter how advanced. The easiest way to begin building your magical mind is to start a daily breath practice. Whenever I have free time throughout my day, or whenever I feel the need to rejuvenate and connect to good 'ol Gaia, I sit down and breath. Focus on the processes of inhaling and exhaling, taking in the energies of life around you, sending out a connecting thread to everything else that is.
  Envision a thread of energy, coming up from the earth, running through your spine and out into the limitless heavens. This cord is always there, just waiting for you to notice it. As you breathe in, pull in energy from above and below. As you breathe out, allow that energy to fill your body, relaxing your muscles, revitalizing your mind and strengthening your breath.
  Building the right mindset for practicing the Craft is a never-ending process. Once you really begin to dedicate your will to it, you might realize that you never want it to end. Every step you take toward expanded and connected consciousness is a step toward realizing your inherent divinity.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Dao of Manual Labor

I'm a landscaper. At least, that's what I do to pay my rent and feed myself. So today, like most other days, I was outside, digging holes and planting trees. Now you may not know this, but the temperature here in sunny Austin, TX has been firmly in the triple digits for a few weeks now. All this is to say: physically, my day was miserable. So, why do I continue to put myself through these kinds of days?
To be fair, I think it's partially an inherent masochism that all Texans are born with, living where we do. But it's also because manual labor has become part of my spiritual practice. In fact, I've found that by applying my attention, or energy, to anything can make it into a magical experience. So by tuning in to my Will while I labor in weather most sensible people refuse to even go out in, it can become a crucible for the development of my connection with God Herself.
So, having learned that, it follows that the same principle can be migrated to other areas of life. Typing this blog post is magical practice, as is drinking my coffee, as is feeding my cat. For me, what truly makes any experience a bridge to divinity is the presence of my own divine mind. By drinking coffee and feeding my cat with intention, I shift those actions out of the realm of the supposedly mundane, and into the realm of mystery. And isn't life so much more interesting that way?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

What is a DIY Witch?

In a sense we are all DIY witches. A DIY witch is someone who is constantly pushing the borders of their practice, whatever it's origins. A DIY witch is intimately connected and invested in the development of their spiritual work. A DIY witch is anyone who questions their own beliefs, and evolves based on the answers. The term isn't meant to be exclusionary. I think a growing number of pagan practitioners are approaching their disparate paths this way.
The DIY idea isn't just about eclectic or solitary practice, coveners exemplify it as well. A coven is the natural outgrowth of a group of DIY-ers who share ideas and inspirations. I call myself a DIY witch, because I believe so firmly in the ongoing dialogue between the deity and humanity, between the seen and the unseen, which can lead to the development of deeper, more personal and more effective communion with God Herself. 

Experimenting With Yoga and Aphex Twin

Having just recently finished Christopher Penczak's first book, City Magic, which is all about practicing nature-based spirituality in an urban and technocentric setting, I decided it was time to give electronica a chance as music for my practice. I put Aphex Twin's entire discography into a playlist, pressed play, and put my feet to the mat for some (hopefully) enlightening yoga. 
I've always been one who used more "earthy" music for working, drums, folk music, etc...but since music is most certainly energy, I felt I owed it to myself to try working with some unfamiliar kinds. The results were a mixed bag. The heavy beats, repetitive style and wordless songs were very conducive to a state of focus and meditative awareness. I think, however, my subconscious had been trained to revolt against this. After all, I've trained that part of my mind to start working whenever I put on aforementioned "earthy" tunes. So, perhaps someday it will learn to adapt to ambient electronic jams. I hope so. For now, shamanic drumming with have to do.